Saints fans hugged, kissed, and spilled onto the streets Sunday as a citywide party erupted after their once woebegone NFL franchise defeated the Indiapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.
French Quarter crowds, beefed up by tourists in town for Carnival season and by those wanting to experience the euphoria of a Saints victory, poured onto Bourbon Street to celebrate in a scene that looked more like Fat Tuesday than a Sunday night. The Saints won 31-17 in the franchise's first appearance in the big game.
As a brass band played "When the Saints Go Marching In" inside Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, revelers jumped up and down, stood on chairs and tables and waved black and gold umbrellas when the Saints won.
"This is so awesome," said Darlene Milliet, as she hugged her sister, Cindy Lasiter, both of them crying in the French Quarter. "I can't believe it!"
"It's like a dream come true. It's just a dream come true," said Lasiter.
Vince Scanil, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan in town for an anniversary weekend with his wife, said he remembered how special it was when his team won their first Super Bowl, but it seemed extra special for New Orleans, a city that suffered so much after Hurricane Katrina.
"Our hearts pour out for them. What a great city to win it," he said as plastic beads swung from his neck and he watched revelers. "It's a heartwarming thing, the Saints."
Trina Pearley-Brown was raised by her mother to be a Saints fan, and she was carrying on the legacy even though her mother died before Katrina.
"You can't describe it. It's so awesome. We've been waiting for this for years," said 47-year-old from Gramercy, La. "It's means so much to the city. They're back. They're alive."
It was a similar scene along a row of neighborhood bars and restaurants on Maple Street, not far from Tulane and Loyola universities, where college students and area residents, most clad in black and gold, hit the street screaming and cheering. Fireworks resounded and flares lit up the sky.
"House of the Rising Sun" blared from speakers at Bruno's Tavern, where patrons sprayed each other with champagne and beer.
The victory capped a weekend of Saints-centered celebration along Carnival parade routes. The spirit bled into the political arena. The city had elected a new mayor Saturday, Mitch Landrieu, and supporters prefaced his victory speech by chanting "Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints."
The celebrations began hours before the game, as dogs dressed in Saints jerseys and gaudy floats carrying masked riders provided a rolling pre-game tailgate party for thousands as New Orleans started partying long before the Super Bowl kicked off.
David Frazier and Daphne Naro, of the San Francisco area, were among the parade goers along Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter. The game brought them back to New Orleans, Frazier's home town.
"The Saints in the Super Bowl, man. That's a once-in-forever thing," Frazier said.
In the French Quarter, the afternoon celebrations began with the procession of the "Krewe of Barkus," a mini-parade for dogs. Dogs sporting black and gold feathers, beads, sequins and Saints jerseys marched with their owners through the Quarter.
One yellow labrador retriever walked the parade route past St. Louis Cathedral dressed like Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, complete with stringy blond wig and fake tattoos running down his legs below the No. 88 jersey.
"He has a laid-back surfer personality, like Shockey," said Stas Zhuk, gesturing to 2-year-old Diego being walked by his wife. "He's friendly to everyone."
They moved to New Orleans six months ago, "so we became intense rabid fans in a short amount of time," Zhuk said.